“A respect for humanity says that you respect women”

On Sunday’s show, Melissa Harris-Perry perfectly contextualizes the climate where we are witnessing state by state assaults on women bodies, privacy, and reproductive freedom protected under the 14th Amendment in the year where Roe v Wade turns 40, the landmark decision that affirmed a woman’s right to privacy. Stay for the interview with Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. Again, the voting rights act is a feminist issue. To quote State Senator Turner, “Elections have consequences.”

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Transcript after the jump.

>>>good morning, i’m melissa harris-perry. come with me for a moment back to 1951 to an exam room at baltimore johns hopkins hospital where a 31-year-old mother of five names henrietta lacks received a devastating diagnosis. cervical cancer, an especially aggressive form of the disease that despite radiation and surgery would have taken her life for months. that would have been where the story ended. somewhere in the hospital henrietta lacks lived on, at least some of her did. before henrietta’s death her doctors to a sample of her tissue to study inside a test tube. when they looked closely, they discovered something unusual for cells. hers not only survived but thrived and multiplied in the live. in fact, henrietta’s cells were so resilient they were replicated again and again and again in laboratories all over the world and went on to become the most widely used cell for for human cellular and molecular biology. those cells known as hela are the basis of breakthroughs. jonas salk used them to develop the first vaccine for polio. medical advances in vitrovertization, cell biology, cancer research and all things to hela cells. since hela were not the first cells to be widely replicated but also sold for profit, they are also the basis for a multi-billion dollar industry based on commercialized cells and tissues all from one woman who died but more importantly lived six decades ago.

>>> while she was alive henrietta lacks never knew about that small slice of her taken out of her body. she never knew because her doctor took her cells without her knowledge or consent. no one ever informed or asked permission from henrietta’s family to use the parts of her that lived on after she was gone. this story received widespread attention after it was chronicled by a writer in “the immortal life of henrietta lacks.” this week they announced a settlement with the descendants on how the hela geno would be used. information contained within henrietta’s dna must seek permission from a group that includes permission from her family. it is a long overdue response. the outstanding ethical questions about lacks’s inability to give informed consent. it also raises another issue raised by the public information. after all henrietta’s dna is also the dna of her living relatives. whoever has the code also has access to the medical inheritance of her children and grandchildren. protecting that information is only the most recent acknowledgement of a right first recognized long before henrietta lacks walked into that exam room. that is the right to privacy. in 1904, a man sued a life insurance company after he saw a photo of himself used without his permission in one of the company’s newspaper ads. when the georgia supreme court sided with him, it became the first court in the nation to accept what was then a completely novel concept, that an individual’s privacy, the freedom to be left alone was a right. now, of course, that right only extended as far as the nearest uterus, because it wasn’t until 1973 that the most famous legal decision recognizing a right to privacy included women and their body under the umbrella of privacy protections. when the supreme court issued a decision in roe v. wade it didn’t just legalize abortion, it confirmed her autonomy over her physical being was part of her inviable right to privacy and promoted by the fourth amendment. it is in that moment when the court recognizes a woman’s right to enjoy a liberty granted to all americans that we see privacy become an equal element of citizenship. of course we know that is certainly not where that story ended either. the question of whether your body belongs to you, or is fair game for state intrusion, still remains highly contested territory. take the case of mcfaul versus shipp. the supreme court found in 1978 a person cannot be forced to donate parts of their body even if that would save someone’s lives. the court ruled you can take someone’s dna without a warrant if you’re suspected of a crime. in cases like these there’s a blurry line his or her domain over one’s own body and his or her concern like public health and public safety. there are cases like this. the video you’re seeing now is from police dashboard cameras. so graphic we decided to blur parts of it to show you on television. texas highway police stopping women and compelling them to submit to cavity searches on the side of the road. not just once but at least twice last year. this happened on separate occasions in both parts of texas. both cases remarkably similar. two women pulled over, questioned by a trooper, claiming to smell marijuana in the vehicle. no evidence of drugs found in either case. a female officer arriving on the scene, pulling on a pair of gloves and using the same pair of gloves to perform anal and vaginal searches. what you just saw was an illegal and unconstitutional search one the department of safety complains is not part of policy, whose blatant disregard for privacy rights of women as of last month was very much the official policy of the state of texas thanks to the republican legislature which a few weeks ago passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation taking a page from across the country that limited women’s reproductive choice. these laws completely bypass the complex constitutional questions and the supreme court has grappled with in its roe decision, a bit of policymaking magic, completely undermining preefsey rights without engaging the court’s privacy rights at all. laws that in practice would ban abortion after 20 weeks are dressed up to mask claims of fetal pain, laws passed under guys of standardized building codes to make abortion facilities safer. texas’s version of the law, commonly known under the fitting acronym of trap laws, will likely reduce the state’s 42 clinics down to five. and despite the efforts of carolina’s moral monday protesters, republicans there will restrict 15 of the state’s 16 facilities, leaving it with only one. similar legislation in ohio is already forcing the closure of this place, the capital care network of toledo. it is all the remains of what used to be two abortion providers in toledo. ohio’s trap laws closed the other one a few months ago. now this one is closing, too. and so 40 years since roe v. wade vested women with full and equal citizenship establishing their right to privacy, this is where we find rights today facing a fate not unlike a woman who walked into a baltimore hospital a few years ago, not quite gone, not completely here but dying slowly by inches. joining me now is one of the people poised to stop the state from going inside women by being herself a woman inside the state, ohio state senator nina turner is live from cleveland. hi, how are you this morning, nina?

>> good morning, professor. i’m fine.

>> talk to me a little bit. this week i kept thinking it’s like we put women’s issues on the side and claim they are separate from other policy. it feels to me like they come packaged with voter suppression, stand your ground. is that what you’re seeing in ohio?

>> we are. our rights are under attack. that’s why we need more women in elected office. women make an impact, whether social, political, economic spheres of this country, yet we find ourselves going backwards. this year at the end of the month, it will be 93 years since the suffrage movement at the end of this month. 50 years at the end of this month we’re going to be celebrating and recognizing the march on washington for jobs and justice. women are being treated in unjust ways. dr. king said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. that is happening. what is more personal than a woman’s body. you name places like ohio. even missouri where legislators are trying to give doctors the authority to deny women access to birth control. this is only happening to women and it is wrong. women should be outraged. but people who care and respect women should be outraged as well. as women today, what other groups will it be tomorrow?

>> for me your sort of historical narrative is so important, the idea it hasn’t even been 100 years women have had the full citizenship right to vote, not even a full 50 years since passage of a vote rights act for women of color like ourselves. are you surprised, given we are many decades since those accomplishments, about this wholesale attack on women’s privacy rights?

>> i am. but you know what, elections have consequences. that’s exactly what we’re dealing with. in 2012 women made up over half the people who went out to vote. we have to repeat that again in 2014. not only in ohio but also the midterm elections in congress. we have to elect people who have a fundamental respect for humanity and have a respect for humanity says that you respect women. it is unacceptable to have women treated as second class citizens. professor, i am urging people to understand that. it doesn’t matter what our political affiliations are, this is about justice. this is about humanity. so we have to change that. right here in the state of ohio, we’re dealing with folks who want to take away voting rights. they are trying to take away early voting windows, a secretary of suppression who is doing the same thing. we have to continue to fight back. this is about elections and elections have consequences.

>> we have a midterm election coming up. you know, we’re starting to see sort of the on the ground movement for electing a woman for the u.s. presidency.

>> yes.

>> there’s some discourse around that being hillary clinton. sort of beside who the candidate might be, just the idea it’s time to elect a woman as president. i keep thinking these laws aren’t coming through the presidential level. how do we make sure we’re putting women in state houses in texas, ohio. have you thought about the strategic way to move public attention to these more local races and midterm races?

>> yes, i have. it is reminding voters about exactly what is going on. i mean, when you have members of the legislature that go on recess in ohio. when you can’t even expand medicaid that would help over 300,000 working class ohioans, men, women, and their families, something is wrong with that. so we have to remind people how far we’ve come. we cannot allow any group to take us back. i am running a petition drive right now and i want folks to go to @ninaturner. we are a nation of progress. we cannot allow people to came us backwards. what affects one indirectly affects us all. i want women to be outraged. that clip you showed about a cavity show. outrage. that’s all i can say on a morning talk show. it’s beyond outrage anybody would do to a woman. folks need to be fired. we cannot accept — we accept a double standard in this country. we have to stop it. women must lift their voices and men who care about women must lift their voices. they are somebody’s mother, daughter, aunts. we have to care about humanity and women are part of that humanity. we are forces of nature and we make a difference wherever we are.

>> ohio state senator nina turner. thank goodness you were with me on this sunday morning. i have to say we have been beside ourselves with anger in nerdland about the invasions of women’s privacy. you always help make me feel as though there’s something to be done. we don’t just have to be angry about it. thank you for joining me this morning.

>> thank you, professor.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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